About 200 workers at Dulles International Airport went on strike this week over what they say is low pay and their management’s refusal to recognize their union.
The strike, amid one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, includes customer service agents, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants, reports ABC 7 in Washington D.C. Close to 150,000 travelers from the D.C. area are expected to catch a flight out of town for the holidays this week, according to AAA.
The walk-off was announced on Monday as part of an effort by contracted workers at the busy airport to earn better pay and the right to unionize. The workers are contracted through a company called Huntleigh USA Corporation.
Per ABC 7:
Some of the workers say they are only paid $6.50 an hour and that they need to work multiple jobs. This will mark the third year an a row that the workers will ask for $15 an hour.
In a statement sent to multiple news outlets, Huntleigh chief financial officer Diane Shaw disputed that it refuses to recognize the right of its workers to form a union.
“The Company never has refused to agree to the fair and well-established process established by the National Labor Relations Board that allows all affected employees to vote on the issue of unionization in a secret ballot election,” Shaw said. (It’s worth pointing out that Shaw’s advocating for a process that’s typically seen as a union-busting technique. Rather than allow employees to organize by signing cards and voluntarily recognize their decision, Shaw would prefer the NLRB to come in and hold an election. With the latter, at least one survey found, more workers felt management had the ability to coerce them, which wasn’t the case for the card-check method.)
Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, matching the federal threshold, but some workers at the airport earn as little as $6.15 per hour plus tips, reports AviationPros. A new policy passed earlier this year by the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority mandates for contractors to see their wages increase to $12.75 by 2020. The workers on strike have been calling for a $15 per hour wage.
The strike’s supposed to last two days, ABC 7 reports.